The Annotated Luther

Volume 2: Word and Faith

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Editor(s): 
Kirsi I. Stjerna
The Annotated Luther series
  • Minneapolis, MN : 
    Fortress Press
    , September
     2015.
     528 pages.
     $39.00.
     Hardcover.
    ISBN
    9781451462708.
     For other formats: Link to Publisher's Website.

Review

To mark the five-hundredth anniversary of the Reformation, Fortress Press is republishing seventy-five of Luther’s most significant writings in six volumes. This second volume, Word and Faith, edited by Kirsi Stjerna, includes texts such as Two Kinds of Righteousness, A Brief Instruction on What to Look for and Expect in the Gospels, The Bondage of the Will, and The Large Catechism, each of which highlight core concerns for Luther: faith, justification, and the word of God. A handful of editorial decisions, intended to enrich future Lutheran studies with increased diversity, make the volume a unique sourcebook and provide an opportunity to reflect on the impact and future of the Reformation tradition.

 

In the introduction, Stjerna explains that a key aim of this volume is to facilitate the study of Luther’s theology in new “contexts, with diverse frameworks and languages, and with global conversation partners” (7). Helpful historically contextualized details and timelines help make these writings more accessible to new students of Luther. Of greater significance though is the fact that Stjerna has collected an international group of scholars (Else Marie Wiberg Pedersen, Wanda Deifelt, Hans J. Hillerbrand, Brooks Schramm, Volker Leppin, Gordon Jensen, and Kurt K. Hendel) who frequently draw the reader’s attention to often overlooked aspects of Luther’s thought and embrace an approach of both “critical and compassionate study of Luther’s theology” (7). Several contributors, for example, emphasize the role of gender in Luther’s writings, the importance of contemporary texts like The Global Luther, and the influence of the Finnish interpretation of Luther. In the late twentieth-century the Finns, beginning with Tuomo Mannermaa, developed an alternative to predominant interpretations of Luther. They emphasize that Luther’s theology of justification incorporates ancient concepts of theosis—or becoming divine through union with God—rather than providing a radical departure from these early models of salvation. In doing so, this interpretation offers a critical counterpoint to interpretations of Luther that overemphasize personalism and so contribute to modern notions of isolated individualism. Accordingly, some contributors to this volume highlight the role of union, “happy exchange,” and even cooperation in Luther’s theology of justification.

 

What this text does particularly well for readers already familiar with Luther’s writings, as well as those encountering his work for the first time, is offer a rare but increasingly important introduction to more diverse perspectives and hermeneutical approaches to Luther’s works. At the same time, one will note that while the contributors to the volume are internationally diverse, they are still predominantly from Euro-American backgrounds. In this sense, the text might serve as an indication of the important work facing Reformation scholars, pastors, and lay people in the next five hundred years, as much as a recognition of the significance of the past half-millennia of Reformation thought. Interpretations that expand to non-Eurocentric perspectives, that make space for both critical and appreciative positions, and those that attend to the gender dynamics of Luther’s writings, will only increase in importance in coming decades. In this sense, Word and Faith not only offers readers an authoritative introduction to key Lutheran concepts and convictions, but the beginnings of a welcome expansion of Reformation horizons as well. 

 

About the Reviewer(s): 

Terra Rowe is Adjunct Instructor at Marist College. 

Date of Review: 
May 23, 2016
About the Author(s)/Editor(s)/Translator(s): 

Kirsi I. Stjerna is First Lutheran, Los Angeles/Southwest California Synod Professor of Lutheran History and Theology at Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary of California Lutheran University. A docent at the University of Helsinki, she is author or editor of eight books, including Women and the Reformation (2008) and Martin Luther, the Bible, and the Jewish People, with Brooks Schramm (Fortress Press, 2012).

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